Travel with a Purpose

Victoria Stodden, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at professor at Stanford Law School, was at this year's Global Voices Summit in Budapest Hungary when four representatives from Rising Voices projects presented some of the work they have been doing over the past year. She took special note of a question that came at the end from a member in the audience: ‘how can we help?’

As Stodden writes:

The answer was perhaps surprising, although money is always welcome, what is needed is skills. Specifically, people with web design or IT skills can come and stay with a blogging community for a week or two and teach people how to do things like design a web page, display their wares online, essentially support people in computer use… So, it occurred to me that I know many people for whom travel and learning is very important, who are both skilled in IT and would find an enormous satisfaction from having a purpose to their travel. I can put you in touch with people who might appreciate your skills, or you can reach Rising Voices directly.

People like Stodden – who serve as brokers between those with technology skills and those thirsty to learn them – are instrumental to the success of Rising Voices projects. Case in point: the Nari Jibon center in Dhaka, which incorporates citizen media into existing English, computer, and Bangla classes for young Bangladeshi women. Much of the amazing content produced by Nari Jibon bloggers is thanks to the training they have received at workshops put on by an unlikely yet highly proficient group of veteran bloggers from Venezuela, Canada, and the United States.


Nari Jibon founder Kathryn Ward describes how the volunteer group of citizen media trainers came together. It began when Rezwan, Rising Voices features editor, wrote about Shawn, a Canadian anti-poverty activist based in Dhaka who blogs at The Uncultured Project. A few weeks later, as I was catching up on some Latin American blogs, I realized that Kira Kariakin, who writes at K-MINOS, was no based in Dhaka. After a quick email, she was all ready and set to give a workshop on Flickr at the Nari Jibon center. (Make sure not to miss her incredible set of photographs of some of the Nari Jibon bloggers.) Meanwhile, Shaina, a sociology student at Florida State University, found out about the Nari Jibon project via Shawn's blog and is now teaching English at the center.

The four met for the first time last week and are not more motivated than ever to make the blogging project at the Nari Jibon center a success. It is a joy to read each of the perspectives of Kira, Kathy, and Shawn.

What can be done to encourage this type of networking for good? What can be done to link up highly skilled travelers seeking adventure and purpose with Rising Voices outreach projects? While there are some websites, like, which are dedicated to matching traveling volunteers with non-profits around the world, they typically charge those non-profits to publish postings.

Another possibility is to take advantage of travel-focused participatory websites like Wikitravel, Dopplr, Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, and World 66. By posting descriptions of the Rising Voices projects to the appropriate city pages on each of the travel websites, there is an increased chance that highly skilled travelers can lead new media workshops for a more inclusive global conversation. Because Dopplr is a popular travel site among bloggers and web 2.0 enthusiasts, I've started leaving ‘tips’ there. If, for example, you schedule a trip to Medellín, and you're looking for something to do that is more meaningful than just checking out Botero's famous paintings, you will see my tip about volunteering an afternoon for the incredible HiperBarrio project.

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The locations of all the Rising Voices projects are available on the projects page. If you or anyone you know plans on passing by and would like to volunteer, please get in touch with us via the contact form on the about page.


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